Food firms in the dock for water pollution

Food producers are a major source of industrial water pollution incidents - second only to the construction sector. The Environment Agency has prosecuted six food firms recently - among them HP Foods, which received a £10,000 fine for polluting a Worcester brook with sauce.

Last July, an Environment Agency officer noticed that the Springs Brook near Worcester was badly affected by sewage fungus and smelt of Worcestershire sauce. The pollution was traced to HP Foods' Lea and Perrins factory in Worcester.

HP Foods was prosecuted for causing polluting matter to enter controlled waters, contrary to section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991. The company pleaded guilty before Worcester magistrates on 2 March.

The court heard that process effluent had entered surface water drains after a sealing bung had become dislodged. HP Foods said in mitigation that it had committed £35,000 to improving the site's ageing drainage system. The company has two previous convictions at the site, including one for a similar incident in November 1996. HP Foods was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £620.

  • Worcestershire-based Pershore Poultry was fined £10,000 on 11 May for polluting a tributary of the Piddle Brook with blood last October. The pollution was traced to a spillage at the firm's Pinvin site. The liquid had entered surface water drains leading to the ditch. Pershore Poultry was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £670 in costs.

  • Fylde snack manufacturer Bensons Crisps was fined £9,000 after polluting a brook with food wastes last July. Appearing before Lytham magistrates on 10 March, the company pleaded guilty to causing polluting matter to enter a brook at Kirkham, contrary to section 85(1) of the 1991 Act.

    The prosecution said that 700 metres of the brook were covered in sewage fungus after food waste and liquor was allowed to enter surface water drains at Bensons' site. A large clean-up operation was mounted to remove decaying food waste from the brook.

  • Fisher Frozen Foods has been fined £6,000 for three offences under section 85(1) of the 1991 Act following pollution of a Norfolk brook on three occasions in 1996 and 1997. The company pleaded guilty before Kings Lynn magistrates on 12 March.

    The court heard that the incidents all resulted from poor site management and spills or overflows into surface water drains. The company was fined £2,000 for each of the three offences and ordered to pay costs of £980.

  • Suffolk poultry producer Wishbone Turkeys has been fined £4,000, with costs of £653, after admitting polluting a tributary of the river Stour with slaughterhouse effluent in January 1997. On 4 March, Witham magistrates heard that the incident resulted from an effluent leak into a surface water drainage sump.

  • Another East Anglian poultry producer, GW Padley, was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,239 on 11 March following an oil pollution incident. Sleaford magistrates heard that a spill of diesel oil into surface water drains led to pollution of the Carr Dyke in December 1996. Staff had incorrectly assumed that all of the oil would be caught by an interceptor.

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